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2018 Nominees for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Announced

July 19 2018

Eight songwriters and four songwriter/artists have been nominated for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Inductees will be announced in August, prior to the fall induction ceremony.

This year’s nominees in the songwriter category are:
Skip Ewing
Byron Hill
Ed Hill
Wayne Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kurt Phillips
Bob Regan
Jim Rushing
Steve Seskin

The nominees in the songwriter/artist category are:
Ronnie Dunn
Toby Keith
Brad Paisley
Eddy Raven

Congratulations to all!


Category 1 - SONGWRITERS

Skip Ewing was born in Redlands, California. Growing up in a military family, he relocated often as a child. He began playing guitar at a young age and by his teens had started writing songs. He got a job performing in a country show at Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia, and from there moved to Nashville at age 19 for a similar job at Opryland theme park. He soon found work singing demos and eventually landed a job as a staff songwriter with Acuff-Rose Music. In 1987, he signed a deal with MCA, where he recorded his breakthrough album, The Coast of Colorado. As more albums and singles followed, so did hits from other artists. Among Skip’s best-known songs are “If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Travis, “Love Me” by Collin Raye, “Wish You Were Here” by Mark Willis and “I Believe” by Diamond Rio. Kenny Chesney hit with “Me And You” and “You Had Me From Hello.” Bryan White scored with “Someone Else’s Star,” “Rebecca Lynn” and “I’m Not Supposed To Love You Anymore.” “Something That We Do” by Clint Black was the 1997 NSAI Song of the Year. Skip was BMI’s 2000 Country Songwriter of the Year.

Winston-Salem, N.C., native Byron Hill moved to Nashville in 1978 and soon signed with ATV Music Group, where he enjoyed his first cuts with “Pickin’ Up Strangers” by Johnny Lee and George Strait’s first #1 “Fool Hearted Memory” in 1982. Byron left ATV in 1984, but his songwriting resume continued to expand with “Nights” by Ed Bruce, “Born Country” by Alabama, “Alright Already” by Larry Stewart, “Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous” by Tracy Byrd, “High-Tech Redneck” by George Jones, “If I Was A Drinkin’ Man” by Neal McCoy, “Nothing On But The Radio” by Gary Allan and “Size Matters (Someday)” by Joe Nichols. Other artists who have recorded Byron’s songs include Jason Aldean, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Rhonda Vincent, Don Williams, Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, Porter Wagoner, Brooks & Dunn, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs and Reba McEntire. To date, Byron’s songs that have generated more than 700 recordings, earned 91 RIAA certified Gold and Platinum awards, 10 ASCAP awards, 34 U.S. and Canadian Top-10 chart hits, and numerous hits in other worldwide markets.

Ed Hill was born and raised on a cotton farm in Hanford, California. He played bass guitar and keyboard in bands from junior high through college. Following graduation from Fresno State, Ed moved to Bakersfield in 1971 to pursue country music. After eight years there as a piano player and singer, he became the house piano player at North Hollywood’s legendary Palomino club. While living in Los Angeles, he helped score several movies before going on the road with Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee as part of the Urban Cowboy Band. Ed moved to Nashville in 1984 to pursue songwriting full time — often writing at night, while painting houses and apartments during the daytime. His big break came in 1989 when Reba McEntire hit with “’Til Love Comes Again.” From there, more hits followed: “Be My Baby Tonight” by John Michael Montgomery, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” by Reba McEntire, “It Matters To Me” by Faith Hill, “Georgia Rain” by Trisha Yearwood, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracy Lawrence, “How ’Bout Them Cowgirls” by George Strait, “Just Fishin’” by Trace Adkins and “Drinking Class” by Lee Brice. “Most People Are Good” by Luke Bryan was named 2018 Music Row Magazine Song Of The Year. Ed was BMI’s 2006 Country Songwriter of the Year.

At age 14, Wayne Kirkpatrick moved with his family to Baton Rouge, La. After a guitar lesson at a Florida Bible camp, Wayne began spending hours after school writing songs and playing younger brother Karey’s acoustic guitar. Both brothers eventually moved to Nashville, where Karey helped Wayne secure some of his first cuts. Since then, Wayne has had nearly two dozen chart-topping Contemporary Christian and Pop singles, including “Every Heartbeat,” “Good For Me” and “Takes A Little Time” by Amy Grant and “Place In This World” by Michael W. Smith (the 1992 Dove Song of the Year). In 1996, Wayne’s co-written “Change The World” by Eric Clapton was featured in the film Phenomenon and earned the 1996 Grammy for Song of the Year. In 1999 Wayne sang, played and co-wrote eight songs on Garth Brooks’ In The Life Of Chris Gaines project, including “Lost In You” and “It Don’t Matter To The Sun.” In 2002 he began a longtime collaboration with Little Big Town that yielded hits such as “Boondocks,” “Bring It On Home” and “Little White Church.” In 2010, Wayne and Karey began working on the musical Something Rotten!, which opened on Broadway in 2015 and earned 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The show launched a U.S. tour in 2017.

Kerry Kurt Phillips grew up in Henderson, Kentucky, and Vincennes, Indiana. Two weeks after moving to Nashville in 1988, he signed as a staff writer with Larry Gatlin’s Texas Wedge Music. His first cut came two and a half years later when George Jones recorded “Where The Tall Grass Grows.” In addition to writing songs, Kerry Kurt served as tour manager and acoustic guitar player for Sony/Epic artist Joe Diffie, who found success with several Kerry Kurt songs, including the singles “Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die” and “Pickup Man.” Tim McGraw was also a fan, releasing the Kerry Kurt-penned singles “Down On The Farm,” “Maybe We Should Just Sleep On It” and “Do You Want Fries With That.” Other Kerry Kurt hits include “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” by George Jones & Friends (the 1993 CMA Vocal Event of the Year), “She Let Herself Go” by George Strait, “Almost Home” by Craig Morgan and “Drinkin’ Bone” by Tracy Byrd. Kerry Kurt’s songs have been featured in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, as well as in national ad campaigns for Ford Trucks, General Motors, Pepsi Corporation, Applebee’s, the PGA and the NFL.

California native Bob Regan was born in Sacramento and raised in South Lake Tahoe. After earning a psychology degree from the University of California at Davis, he spent time as a recording artist and session guitar player in Los Angeles, where he was signed to Curb Records. Since moving to Nashville in 1985, Bob has had more than 200 songs recorded. His hit singles as a songwriter include “’Til Love Comes Again” by Reba McEntire, “Soon” by Tanya Tucker, “Thinkin’ About You” by Trisha Yearwood, “Running Out Of Reasons To Run” by Rick Trevino, “Busy Man” by Billy Ray Cyrus, “Everytime I Cry” by Terri Clark, “Your Everything” by Keith Urban and “Something About A Woman” by Jake Owen. Bob’s song “Dig Two Graves” by Randy Travis was a Grammy nominee in 2009. “Pray About Everything” by Guy Penrod was a Dove nominee in 2012. Also in 2012 Bob founded Operation Song, a music therapy program that partners professional songwriters with military veterans with to help them tell their stories through songwriting.

Jim Rushing was raised in Lubbock, Texas. He studied classical piano for 13 years, then at age 17 left high school to join the U.S. Army Airborne and First Special Forces, Okinawa. After a tour in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. to complete his master’s degree as mounting opposition to the Vietnam War was dividing college campuses across America. Amidst the turmoil, Jim began writing songs in earnest and by 1971 moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting full time. During his three decades in Music City, Jim wrote or co-wrote songs recorded by a veritable Who’s Who of country, bluegrass, gospel and pop, including “Hope You’re Feelin’ Me (Like I’m Feelin’ You)” by Charley Pride, “Nothing Sure Looked Good On You” by Gene Watson, “Pittsburgh Stealers” by The Kendalls, “Cajun Moon” and “Thanks Again” by Ricky Skaggs, “Little Mountain Church House” by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (1990 IBMA Song of the Year), “Lonesome Standard Time” by Kathy Mattea and by Larry Cordle (1993 IBMA Song of the Year), “Cheap Whiskey” (Martina McBride), “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association” by Garth Brooks and “Salt Of The Earth” by Ricky Skaggs & The Whites.

New York-born Steve Seskin began his songwriting career when he moved to San Francisco in 1972. Upon the advice of Crystal Gayle, Steve visited Nashville in 1985 and began co-writing. He first hit the Country chart in 1990 with “Wrong” by Waylon Jennings. He has enjoyed particular success with both John Michael Montgomery (“Life’s A Dance,” “If You’ve Got Love,” “No Man’s Land”) and Neal McCoy (“No Doubt About It” and “For A Change”). His “Don’t Laugh At Me” by Mark Wills was named the 1998 NSAI Song of the Year. The version by Peter, Paul and Mary became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. Other Steve Seskin hits include “Daddy’s Money” by Ricochet, the Grammy-nominated “Grown Men Don’t Cry” by Tim McGraw and “I Think About You” by Collin Raye. That song’s video was named the ACM 1997 Video of the Year, while the song and video were awarded by the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence. A successful performer and recording artist on his own, Steve has recorded numerous CDs for his own label. He divides his time among Nashville, Northern California and touring.


Ronnie Dunn was born in Texas, but Tulsa, Okla., became his hometown. He began playing guitar and performing in Country bands when he was in his teens. After winning the Marlboro Talent Search, Arista Records expressed interest in him. The label teamed him with singer-songwriter Kix Brooks, and the two recorded as Brooks & Dunn from 1991-2011. The mega-duo sold millions of records and was named CMA Vocal Duo 14 times. The Brooks & Dunn hits “Neon Moon,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “She Used To Be Mine,” “She’s Not The Cheatin’ Kind” and “Little Miss Honky Tonk” were all written solo by Ronnie, as was “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” which was named ACM Song of the Year in 1992. Ronnie was BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 1996 and 1998. Co-written Brooks & Dunn hits include songs such as “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart” and “Believe,” which was the ACM Song of the Year in 2005 and the CMA Song and Single of the Year in 2006. In 2011, Ronnie resumed his solo career as a singer-songwriter with “Cost Of Livin’.” Ronnie was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2003.

Oklahoma native Toby Keith received his first guitar at age eight. After high-school graduation, he worked in the oil fields by day and played with his band at night. In the early ’90s, one of his demo tapes found its way to producer Harold Shedd, who signed him to a deal with Mercury Records. In 1993 Toby’s solo-written debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” reached #1 on the Country chart and would go on to become the most played Country song of the 1990s. To date, he has placed some 50 compositions on the Country charts as an artist, including “You Ain’t Much Fun,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “A Little Too Late” and “God Love Her.” “As Good As I Once Was” was BMI’s 2006 Country Song of the Year. Among his many awards, he was named BMI’s 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year. He was NSAI’s 2003, 2004, 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year, as well as that organization’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade (2000-2009). In 2015 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.

Brad Paisley was born and raised in Glen Dale, West Virginia. He received his first guitar from his grandfather, who taught him to play at eight years old. At age 13, Brad wrote his first song, which he performed publicly and which eventually led him to an eight-year stint performing on Wheeling’s Jamboree USA. After high-school graduation and two years at West Liberty State College, Brad was awarded a fully paid ASCAP scholarship to Belmont University in Nashville where he majored in music business. A week after graduating from Belmont, Brad signed as a writer with EMI Music Publishing. Following cuts by David Kersh, David Ball and Tracy Byrd, Brad signed with Arista Nashville and soon began to record his own songs. Among his hits as an artist are “He Didn’t Have To Be,” “Alcohol,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” “Celebrity,” “Ticks,” “Letter To Me,” “Then,” “This Is Country Music,” “Water,” and his duet with Carrie Underwood “Remind Me.” Brad was ASCAP’s 2004 Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year. He was NSAI’s Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2002 and 2005.

Eddy Raven was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and raised in bayou country as one of 11 children. He received a guitar from his truck driver/blues guitarist father and by age 13 was playing in a band. In 1969 Eddy recorded an album, That Crazy Cajun Sound, which impressed fellow Louisianan and Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy C. Newman, who then helped Eddy secure a songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose Music Publishing in Nashville. During that time, Eddy also worked as lead singer for Jimmie Davis’ band and toured with him during his election campaign for governor of Louisiana. In 1971, Eddy began having hits with other artists, including Top 10 singles by Don Gibson (“Country Green”) and Randy Cornor (“Sometimes I Talk In My Sleep”). By 1974, Eddy had moved to Nashville and was recording his own songs with Elektra Records (and later RCA Records): “I Should’ve Called,” “Who Do You Know In California,” “I Got Mexico,” “Sometimes A Lady,” “You Should Have Been Gone By Now,” “Bayou Boys,” and “Island.” In 1983 The Oak Ridge Boys recorded “Thank God For Kids,” one of the most-recorded songs in Eddy’s catalogue.